a VirtualTourist member from Cleveland Heights asked on Apr 28, 2016
I have been trying to find a good route from Toronto up to Terra Nova and Gros Morne in Newfoundland. I want to start in the north of Newfoundland and then work my way down south.
Can you give input into what routes to head up north directly, and where ferry can be caught from there?
Also, any recommendations on points along the way, I plan to take 3 days to drive there most likely, so would need to find a hotel for 1st night and 2nd night.
Thanks greatly for any help.
Driving there implies using a ferry at some point or other.
The standard approach would be to drive from Toronto to the ferry terminal at North Sydney, on Cape Bretton Island and then and then take the ferry to Port-aux-Basques to Newfoundland and then drive up the west coast of the island. That's about a 2000km trip with 20 hours or so of non-stop driving to get to North Sydney. I worked with a few Cape Brettoners who would do the drive in one go in around 16 hours from Ottawa fairly frequently, but you need to add around 4 hours to this from Toronto.
Getting there from the north means a rather difficult drive via the North Shore of the St Lawrence River. Highway 138 only goes as far as Kegashka and starts again at Vieux Fort. I read that the Quebec government has plans to fill in the gap, but that is still years away. You need to get to Blanc Sablon to take the ferry to Newfoundland, which means a long drive. Follow the 138 to Baie Comeau and then head up the 389 to the Fermont / :Labrador City area where you hit the gravel trans-Labrador Highway. I've looked at doing this but haven't gotten around to it yet. The Toronto - Labrador City portion will take a bit longer than the Toronto - Sydney drive. But this would get you to the north end of the island via the ferry at Blanc Sablon QC to Saint Barb NL. You might want to check out the following link on the Trans Labrador Highway:
If you take the southern route; I tend to spend a night at either Riviere du Loup, Quebec or in Edmunston NB. This is a good road and is 4 lanes most of the way, but I haven't been out that way in a couple of years and last time the bit between Riviere du Loup and Edmunston was having 4 lanes put in, so I would expect that much of that would be done by now.
If you have time, you can make the loop, north coast to Havre St Pierre, RelaisNordik coastal service to Blanc-Sablon, ferry to St Barbe, north of of NFL, drive south to Port-aux-Basques, ferry to North Sydney, then back across the Maritimes and Québec.
I have done this trip, nearly twice (diversions to Labrador, St Pierre-et-Miquelon and St John...), but only with public transport, and my thumb, and enjoyed it a lot, but I know it is doable by car/boat combination.
I didn't mention this option for two reasons, the time frame involved is much longer than the three days suggested in the original posting and when I looked at booking this trip with a car in the past, they are often booked well ahead of time (i.e. need to book for the next sailing season) as they had no cargo space for the car. This is not a ferry, but your car is loaded as freight and unloaded as freight at the end of the trip.
I will be in NWF for at least a week or more, and like the suggestions you made for ways to go different places.
I plan on Labrador for as long as I want. I am entirely flexible as I will be through those parts, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and other places camping for as long as I like.
Do I need to pre-book ferries, for instance, can I book in May even though I won't be there till mid-August?
The ferries do bookup so if you lock in your itinerary, earlier is better as they do sell out, especially during the summer.
I'm not a camper, so can't answer questions regarding campgrounds.
I have heard from people that I know who had lived in the Fermont and Lab City areas that black flies and mosquitos can be a bother the whole summer long, but late summer would generally be best for avoiding them. I've been all over NS, but have not been to NL yet. Part of the reason that I have some data is that I've been researching this as a possible trip in late August to early September this year. My wife and an old friend did go to Newfoundland in mid-September (west side of the island only - they flew into Deer Lake and rented a car and got all the way up to Gros Morne). They found that a lot of places had pretty well closed down for the season by that time, so we would probably be working our way back by the Labour Day weekend, if we go.
I would fly to St. John's or Deer Lake an rent a car. The rental company will probably suggest that you take out insurance for flat tires. Pay the extra cost.
It does rain in NFLD and that could affect your planes. Two year a go we spent 7 days there and had 6 days of sunshine. Some friends were there last year for a week and heavy rain forced them to be hotel bound for three days..
When we were on the west cost there was a bit of rain , but at some locations the rain was coming down horizontally. If you go to Gross Morne you need rain gear, and take along an extra pairs of shoes and socks. Its a 30 to 45 minute walk from the parking lot to the boat.
Also check out Twillingate , Fogo Island ( a must in July when the icebergs are floating by on a sunny day) and ST. John's ( north and south).
I found one more resource that I had been looking for:
It's a few years old, but I'm fairly certain what is written still applies.
Considering the weather, expect anything...
It truly rains a lot in NFL, and very much horizontally ;-) !
I had one of the worst storms at sea in my life on the NordikExpress, gorgeous weather the next days.
35° C in Goose Bay, with sand winds, hottest place in Canada for days...
Clouds of back flies when the wind abates...
Black bears circling my tent...
Plenty of icebergs to look at from the shore...
Thanks again for all input, the link is really helpful (grumpy), and the weather, cautions, etc..I am admittedly a bit concerned about. If it simply is too bad of conditions, I will have to change plans.
Before you drive in NFLD you should be well aware of the large moose population ( 150,000 ) .
GOOGLE " Newfoundland Moose" and do some research.
There are road signs posted where the moose are a serious problem , mostly in the west..
Do not drive at night, and use caution at sunrise and sunset .
The problem is this.
Moose are unpredictable , and not deep thinkers.
Their long spindly legs places their centre of gravity at the same elevation as your front windshield.
So if you hit a moose guess what will impact the windshield. ?
Some moose have a large set of antlers.
Fog is another issue in NFLD , and fog can be so thick that you have to stop on the side of the road.
Newfoundland is one of the more interesting places in the world to drive a car.
Grumpy, you mentioned booking ferry far ahead and that it is cargo. Would I be on that same cargo/ferry boat or a different one? How long does that ferry ride go?
I don't have exact date that I will be crossing over yet, so feeling the pressure building up about the scheduling far enough in advance....
Labrador ferry crossing is about 5 hours, and it's a "normal" ferry (ro-ro), but booking is highly advisable. Lots of cargo and trucks.
RelaisNordik is cargo, as your car has to be lifted onto the ship, space permitting (not much...)
The Nordik; the boat that travels along the North Shore of the St Lawrence from Rimouski (on the South Shore) to Blanc Sablon can be booked very far in advance, especially in the busy July and August period. When we were exploring the option of taking this ship and the car a couple of years ago, any of the sailing dates we were interested in were booked by the time we looked around half a year earlier.
The Blanc Sablon to St Barbe ferry - I have not explored in detail. It's a 1hr 45min crossing via the NL government ferry.
The large Marine Atlantic ferries can also be fully booked a month or two in advance, especially for the popular sailing dates and times in the summer months. You have a bit more flexibility here, but it's already May and a lot of people will have already booked, so I wouldn't leave this too long either, especially if you are targeting a very specific day / time (in both directions).
Do you know of a good half way point I could stop for the night on way to N. Sydney? I am hoping to find a campground, but just a city or town name with hotels might be okay.
Trying to book ferries today finally. Debating on 3 or 4 weeks in NF.
From Ottawa I will tend to stop for the night at either Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec. This is where you turn off the 20 to head down the 85 towards New Brunswick. The other place I will stop is in Edmunston, NB. It is about an hour down the 85 from Riviere-du-Loup just across the border into New Brunswick. These are the two towns that are about half way there for me when I drive from Ottawa, so are a couple of hours further for you. I suspect that Quebec City or Levis that is on the South Shore of the St Lawrence River, opposite Quebec City might be options as well, but I would tend to want to be further along the route..
Toronto to Quebec City is about an 8 hour drive from Toronto. Riviere-du-Loup takes a bit over 2 hours beyond Quebec CIty and Edmunston is the better part of 90 minutes from Riviere-du-Loup. You are looking at a 20 hour drive from Toronto, so these would be logical places to stop and are the larger towns along the way.
Not being a camper, I don't know about campgrounds, so can't help here. I see an awful lot of trailers while driving through Quebec, so campgrounds have to be pretty abundant.